Cancel August recess: We must do our job
As Congress returns to Washington after spending the last two weeks out of session, we find ourselves with just three session weeks left in Washington to complete our legislative business before we adjourn again on July 29 for six weeks of August recess. I know the value of spending time in our districts, which is why I make the almost two hour drive in from my home in Montross, Va., and back home each day. I spent the June recess visiting 13 businesses, hearing from my constituents, and traveling throughout the 1st District of Virginia. However, I also know our constituents expect us to get our jobs done, and the bottom line is that we have not finished our work.
One of Congress’ most basic duties is to pass a budget and fund our government — yet, year after year, we continue to find ourselves budgeting by crisis. Instead of buckling down and getting spending bills done on time, we allow our government to be funded by continuing resolutions (CRs). These last-minute, stop-gap measures deny lawmakers the opportunity to thoroughly debate government spending and update funding priorities. CRs also prevent federal agencies from recruiting and/or hiring necessary staff, efficiently managing existing programs, or cutting programs that are wasting taxpayer dollars. Years of passing CRs to fund the government have led to wasted taxpayer money and government inefficiencies.
When we return to Washington, we will have just six weeks of session remaining until the end of the fiscal year. While I am encouraged by the work the Appropriations Committee did over recess to get all 12 FY2023 funding bills passed out of committee, I am less hopeful that the House will be able to complete all 12 bills before Sept. 30, which leads us to another CR to fund our government. Unfortunately, a lack of accountability to complete our most basic duties has become far too common in Washington, and we must change that culture. That is why I have consistently introduced legislation, such as the Stay on Schedule Resolution, that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to keep members of Congress in town until all 12 appropriations bills are passed instead of adjourning for the August recess.
Returning to completing appropriations bills before the end of the federal fiscal year — moving spending bills through the committee process and the House floor where we read, debate, and vote on them — instead of relying on a CR, will go a long way towards bringing transparency and accountability back to the budget and appropriations process. This would also create tangible steps to reduce our debt and deficit. Today, the national debt stands at more than $30 trillion. If we continue down our current path and continue to use this broken process, we will push the problems of today onto our children and grandchildren. We need to know where our money is going and work through our funding packages in a responsible, thoughtful, and deliberate way — not rushed through at the last minute.
Last week, as I have done for years, I sent the Speaker a letter urging her to cancel August recess considering the incredible work members of Congress still must complete. In addition to failing to complete all 12 appropriations bills, our nation currently faces enormous challenges both at home and abroad that require direct attention and action from members of Congress. Between soaring inflation, skyrocketing energy costs, an unprecedented border crisis, and mounting national security challenges, members of Congress have a duty to work for the American people.
The challenges ahead of us require a commitment to late nights, weekends, and remaining in Washington throughout August until the work is done. If the job isn’t done, you don’t give up and head home for vacation. The same standard should apply to Congress. We can’t continue to find ourselves in these completely avoidable situations. I urge Speaker Pelosi to realistically look at the challenges we face and keep members of Congress in Washington until we complete the work of the American people.
Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.